JUNE 21, 2010: Woman Leads New Opposition Group to Force Electoral Commission Out

Woman Leads New Opposition Group to Force Electoral Commission Out
SOURCE: The Independent (Kampala)
By Haggai Matsiko
The opposition has launched a pressure group, National Alliance for Free and Fair Elections (NAFFE), to intensify its campaign to have the current Electoral Commission disbanded. The opposition have been pushing for the dissolution of the electoral body which they say is too partisan and incompetent to conduct free and fair elections given the 2001 and 2006 experiences.

The opposition, under the interparty cooperation of four parties, has vowed not to allow the current EC preside over next year's presidential and parliamentary polls. They are demanding a new electoral body whose composition represents all political parties. They say the current EC under Eng. Badru Kiggundu is composed of cadres of the ruling NRM party.

During his State of the Nation Address, President Museveni said "like night follows day" elections will take place.

Margaret Wokuri, the NAFFE Coordinator, says the pressure group plans to organise countrywide rallies to place Ugandans at the centre of agitating for transparent elections in 2011 if the current EC is not disbanded. She says there is growing electoral tension that threatens the country's peace.

"NAFFE realises a need to amplify the voices of citizens towards shaping the destiny of their country's future since government has been deaf to the IPC's call to disband the discredited electoral body," Wokuri told the press at Christ the King in Kampala on June 11.

This is the second opposition pressure group led by a woman to demand the disbandment of the current EC. The chairperson of the FDC National Women's League, Ingrid Turinawe, leads a similar group, Women for Peace, which has been holding surprise demonstrations and protests in and outside Kampala, calling for the resignation of the current EC under Kiggundu.

The FDC party spokesman, Wafula Oguttu, reiterated the Inter-Party Cooperation (IPC) vow during press conference that there will not be elections in 2011 unless the EC is disbanded.

"Yes, there will be no elections if the commission is not disbanded. If it means attacking all the polling stations, it will be done, but there will be no voting," Oguttu charged.

Wokuri says the IPC had organised the June 9 rally at Railways Ground before the riot police cordoned off the venue. She said the IPC shifted to the Clock Tower ground where their rally was violently dispersed by the police who also beat up the FDC president Kizza Besigye. At Clock Tower the police were joined by Kiboko Squad, a lawless group in civilian clothes whose members are drawn from various security agencies and army veterans, to beat up the opposition members with sticks.

Wokuri said NAFFE intends will mobilise all interested groups, political parties, civil society, media, religious and opinion leaders to achieve an acceptable 2010 election.

Apart from rallies, the pressure group also intends to solicit signatures of at least three million Ugandans in support of the demand for electoral reforms and petition the Speaker of Parliament against the EC by August this year.

The group joins a list of civil society associations and political pressure organisations that have recently called for electoral reforms. They include Democracy Monitoring Group, (DEM Group), Citizens Manifesto under the NGO Forum, Citizens Coalition on Electoral Democracy, Forum for Women in Democracy (FOWODE) and Uganda Watch 2011.

There appears to be a stalemate between the government and the EC on one hand and the opposition and some civil society organisations on the other, regarding the need for reconstitution of the electoral body. However, Besigye has said he is prepared to die if that's what it takes to have a free and fair election. President Museveni has equally vowed that the current EC will conduct next year's elections no matter the protestations from the opposition and the donors.

Job Kiija, from the NGO-Forum, said "this kind of pressure" will make the government yield to ensuring free and fair elections that the country needs badly.

It's a split bet; will the current EC preside over next year's elections or will the opposition successfully make good of their threat to stop the elections?